Indian variant: Second jabs could be brought forward to tackle rise

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Second vaccine doses could be brought forward and local restrictions introduced to help tackle the Indian variant in the worst-affected areas, the UK government has said.

Minister Nadhim Zahawi said steps could also include vaccinating younger people in multi-generational households.

Meanwhile, a top scientist has warned lifting restrictions on 21 June is in doubt because of the Indian variant.

Cases in the UK have more than doubled to 1,313, Public Health England said.

The figures released on Thursday have risen from 520 cases recorded by PHE up to 5 May.

However, Prof Paul Hunter, who sits on a number of Covid advisory committees for the World Health Organization, said current figures were around two weeks out of date and would now be higher.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Indian variant was now in most regions of the UK, with the possible exception of Yorkshire and Humber and north-east England.

The Department of Health and Social Care said there was “no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine”.

But experts believe it may be more transmissible.

And the department said ministers could not rule out imposing local restrictions if they were necessary to suppress a variant which vaccines are less effective against.

Vaccines Minister Mr Zahawi said the government was also considering reducing the gap between vaccine doses for people in areas where the variant is spreading.

He added that pilots of vaccinating younger people in multi-generational households in Luton had been successful.

Prof Hunter said there was “possibly” a case for targeting vaccines in certain areas – but jabs took two to three weeks to work. This would mean diverting doses from other areas, where the Indian variant could also soon be spreading.

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